The latest video game craze, Fortnite, has prompted Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty principals to warn parents about the “addictive nature” of online gaming and the effect on students.

Papamoa College principal Steve Lindsey issued a notice to parents about the popular multi-player game after its Year 7-8 students were coming to school “tired, irritable and grumpy”.

The notice also said there was “the potential for online bullying over the purchase of “skins,” as students who were unable to purchase the newest “skins” were marginalised by other players”.

Lindsey said the game itself was not the problem, rather the late-night hours spent playing it.

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“It is an observation we have made of some of our students who wouldn‘t usually be tired at the beginning of the day and who have been playing Fortnite,” he said.

Developed by Epic Games, Fortnite is an online survival video game in which 100 players fight against each other in player-versus-player combat to be the last one standing.

“I understand why people are hooked … It is just a matter of balance,” Lindsey said.

“If you are not in the right state to learn, the ability to learn is decreased significantly.”

Te Puke High School acting principal Simon McGillivray said Fortnite was one of a number of online games that were causing concerns for educators and parents.

McGillivray said the school was concerned about the amount of time students committed to gaming and the impact on a young person‘s mental and physical health.

“Ultimately [it is] the addictive nature of some of these games,” he said.

“We are aware that due to the time some students spend gaming it is potentially impacting on their performance at school and attendance.”

Tauranga Boys‘ College principal Robert Mangan said the “addictive nature” of online gaming had a negative impact on a classroom.

“The number of students who stay up too late and increased absenteeism are all detrimental to the engagement in the classroom,” he said.

Mangan said it was mainly junior students who were playing Fortnite and encouraged parents and teachers to manage time spent on devices at home and at school.

“The issue with Fortnite is it involves money,” he said.

Mount Maunganui College principal Alastair Sinton said gaming was a common pastime for many adolescents so secondary schools were reasonably well versed in dealing with the negative impacts.

“Often it becomes apparent in the classroom if students appear tired or lacking energy and this leads to conversations with parents, most of whom are already aware there is a problem,” he said.

Sinton said too much screen time was unhealthy and it was important for students to understand they needed balance.

“If students arrive at school tired or unprepared for the day, that is not a great starting point for learning,” he said.

The Bay of Plenty District Health Board‘s youth alcohol and drugs service, Sorted, developed a pathway to support youth and parents with concerns about gaming a year ago.

Registered social worker at Sorted, Caleb Putt, said tiredness and mood changes could be a problem but did not define a child as a problem gamer.

Putt said gaming could be a way for a young person to connect with others, achieve goals and feel good at something.

“If it becomes the only way to meet those needs then that is when it can become a problem,” he said.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said Fortnite was an extraordinary popular and compelling game for young people to play but had some adverse effects.

“The first and obvious impact is young people are playing it too much and too late,” he said.

However, he understood why young players struggled to put the game down.

“It is aspects of both excitement of a first-person shooter and having creative control,” he said. “It ticks all of the boxes for making a game compelling.”

Cocker said it was parents‘ responsibility to control their child‘s game time.

“New research shows young people cannot manage their time when it comes to gaming,” he said. “Parents really have to stay close to what it is young people are downloading.”

GAMING – WHAT‘S THE FUSS?
What: One of New Zealand‘s leading experts of gaming addiction is coming to Tauranga.
When: September 26, 7pm to 8.30pm
Where: The Graham Young Youth Theatre – Tauranga Boys‘ College
Cost: Free